Human rights group begins legal action over UK’s Rwanda migrant policy

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MANILA: A Saudi medical team has arrived in Manila to transport two 16-month-old girls to Riyadh, who will undergo separation surgery in the capital under the Kingdom’s flagship program for conjoined twins.

Akhizah and Ayeesha Yusoph were born in Panabo City, Davao Del Norte province on the southern island of Mindanao in December 2022. Their bodies share one liver.

“It was in the seventh month that I found out that they were conjoined, when I had my ultrasound. I was shocked,” the children’s mother, Hashima Yusoph, told Arab News.

“All I was thinking at that time was how I can take care of them, how I can do my best to be a mother.”

Not knowing how to help her newborns, the 19-year-old started to look for help to make sure the girls would have a life that is as normal as it could be. It was when they were five months old that a local charity connected her with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.

KSrelief was established by King Salman in 2015 and is headed by Dr. Abdullah
Al-Rabeeah, one of the world’s most renowned pediatric surgeons.

The Saudi Conjoined Twins Program spearheaded by Al-Rabeeah has, since 1990, separated more than 130 children from 25 countries, who were born sharing internal organs with their twins.

Akhizah and Ayeesha will be transported to Riyadh on a special medical aircraft on Sunday.

A reception in their and the KSrelief team’s honor was held by Saudi Ambassador Hisham Al-Qahtani on Friday.

The ambassador said that all the medical procedures, transportation and their stay in the Kingdom during treatment will be covered by the Saudi government, following King Salman’s decree.

Saudi Ambassador Hisham Al-Qahtani poses with Hashima Yusoph and her conjoined twins, Philippine Red Cross CEO Richard Gordon, left, and a KSrelief representative, right, during a reception at in Manila on May 3, 2024. (AN Photo)

“This royal initiative comes as part of the Kingdom’s wise leadership commitment — may God preserve it — to care for and concentrate on humanitarian work,” he told the guests and media.

“This humanitarian work reflects one of the prominent achievements of the Kingdom in the field of separating conjoined twins and providing outstanding medical care, where the Kingdom has become a pioneer in the field.”

Akhizah and Ayeesha will fly to Saudi Arabia with their mother and grandmother.

“I’m so happy it’s finally happening ... The doctors said they are very fit to undergo surgery,” Hashima said. “This is really life changing for us.”

Conjoined twins are a rare phenomenon, estimated to occur once in every 50,000 to 60,000 births.

In March 2004, another set of Filipino conjoined twins, Ann and Mae Manzo, underwent separation surgery in Riyadh.

Joined at the abdomen, the pelvis and the perineum, they were successfully operated on in King Abdulaziz Medical City by Al-Rabeeah and his team of 50 doctors and nurses.

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